Arista Networks unveiled campus-specific features to its broader CloudVision platform and announced its CloudVision WiFi service that allows for the deployment and management of a disaggregated WiFi network. Both updates bolster the company’s push into the campus switch and networking space that is currently dominated by larger rival Cisco.
Jeff Raymond, vice president for Arista’s EOS Software and Services, explained that the updates are part of the company’s Cognitive Campus initiative. They build on the recent launch of its campus spline platform targeted at the enterprise campus market and its controversial acquisition of cognitive WiFi software vendor Mojo Networks.
The new campus-specific features allow for the monitoring of network traffic across wired – and now – wireless networks. This includes the ability to set policies that can detect if an access point is acting out of the ordinary or if there are any unusual traffic patterns. An administrator can dig into the data to determine what’s causing the anomaly and remediate the issue.
The CloudVision platform can now also pull analytics from both wired and wireless deployments and provide a single view into that data. “We can correlate not just wireless issues but also if something is coming from a wired problem as well,” Raymond said.
The update is part of Arista’s initial push in May into the campus switching space. That announcement included a pair of data center spline products targeted at enterprise customers extending their data center networking practices to their campus networks.
CloudVision for Campus will begin trialing later this year with general availability beginning by the middle of 2019.
Arista also launched its CloudVision WiFi platform that allows for the deployment and management of a disaggregated WiFi network. It uses off-the-shelf WiFi silicon, a controller-less architecture, API-driven automation, and taps big data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to boost network performance.
Mojo had previously offered the features as part of its Cognitive WiFi platform. Arista purchased Mojo in August for an undisclosed amount, and Raymond said that both companies used a similar architecture that helped to speed the integration process.
“Our use of API architectures has made the integration much quicker than we even thought,” Raymond said.
Analysts were initially leery of the Mojo deal, noting that it represented a concerning change of direction for Arista.
“We’re troubled by the Mojo acquisition. This is a change in strategy – specifically, Arista is now headed fully into the campus networking market,” wrote Jefferies analyst George Notter in a research note. “These types of M&A deals – where a company moves orthogonal to their core business – make us wonder if something is wrong with the base business itself.”
Arista CEO Jayshree Ullal tried to tamp down those concerns. She told analysts during the company’s second quarter conference call that the move was customer driven.
“You might be thinking, ‘Why did we enter this market,’” she said. “And the simple fact is our customers have been asking us to do so for some time. We believe, [Mojo’s] cloud-managed Cognitive WiFi is a very natural complement to our next-generation campus and cloud networking portfolio.”
While never mentioned by name, Cisco’s dominant position in the campus networking market is an obvious target.
“We had customers asking us to bring our strategy of taking these cloud networking principles from the data center and applying them to the campus to break down some artificial barriers between the two that are vendor and not technology driven,” Raymond said. He noted several times that Arista’s initiatives are based on “modern architectures” rather than “legacy architectures” that lack the ability to dynamically scale and adjust to new and diverse environments.
Cisco however remains confident in its enterprise campus offerings. Speaking last month at a Deutsche Bank Technology Conference, Cisco Enterprise Networking GM Scott Harrell said the company is confident of its enterprise campus offerings.
“Wireless is extremely hard. It’s a discipline to itself,” said Cisco Enterprise Networking GM Scott Harrell, speaking at the Deutsche Bank Technology Conference last month. “And if you’re going to play in the campus and branch, you’ve got to be an expert. I think we have an extremely strong hand when we look at competing against somebody like Arista in the campus and branch,” Harrell said according to transcripts.
Cisco’s wireless portfolio includes its Aironet line, its Meraki products, and its Mobility Express. In June, Cisco said it was buying July Systems to boost its enterprise WiFi platform with indoor location services capabilities. The technology optimizes the end user’s experience and also provides data about visitor behavior.
Although Harrell struck a confident note about Cisco’s competitive stance in the campus and branch, he didn’t minimize the threat from Arista.
“They have customers that they can leverage,” Harrell said at the conference. “But I think it’s a much different story than what happened when they entered some of the other spaces in or around the data center. And so we’ll see. I’m going to keep watching like a hawk, you can be guaranteed about that. But I do think we’re on very, very strong footing as we look forward versus the competitive environment there.”